What is the coronavirus & should we be worried?

Every day we hear more about the coronavirus that is spreading throughout Asia and into other parts of the world. Could this be the next pandemic that puts fear in the hearts of all parents worldwide when they hear their child sniff or cough? Here are a few facts for parents to help put you at ease and suggest measures you can take to limit your risk of catching any virus or infection in the coming weeks and months.

About the coronavirus

  • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, which include viruses that cause the common cold and Severe Respiratory Syndrome (Sars).
  • The first case was confirmed in December 2019 in Wahun City, China.
  • Approximately 2 700 cases have been confirmed worldwide, the vast majority of which are in China.
  • As of today, Thailand and Hong Kong have each reported eight cases of infection; the United States, Taiwan, Australia and Macau have five each; Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia each has reported four; France has three; Canada and Vietnam have two, and Nepal has one.
  • To date, there are no reported cases in Africa, including South Africa.

“The coronavirus is transmitted by coughing and sneezing, through personal contact, and via contaminated surfaces (e.g. door handles).”

Coronavirus symptoms

  • Symptoms include fever, fatigue, sore throat and dry cough.
  • As the illness progresses, patients may experience difficulty breathing.
  • The coronavirus is transmitted by coughing and sneezing, through personal contact, and via contaminated surfaces (e.g. door handles).
  • There is no specific treatment – just as there is no specific treatment for the common cold. 

What to do if you have recently visited affected areas

  • Health officials at Discovery Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in line with international guidelines, recommend that families travelling from affected areas keep their children out of school for 10 days after returning to South Africa.
  • Should your child develop symptoms in that period, a further 10 days at home will likely be mandated by your health practitioner.

How to limit the risk of catching the virus

  • As with many other viruses, frequently washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water is advised.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes with unwashed hands.

What to do if you experience any cold or flu-like symptoms

  • Please stay home until you/your child(ren) are well again.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing and be sure to wash your hands afterwards.
  • Seek medical attention should you experience fever and/or respiratory symptoms – especially if you have been abroad in the past 14 days.